Remodeling San Francisco: LEED Platinum Construction In the Shell of a Classic Victorian
- May 3, 2013
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Welcome to our first ever LEED Platinum project!
This is an ambitious certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, awarded to buildings that meet rigorous criteria in sustainable practices and environmental impact.
What is LEED?
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a verification program and internationally recognized standard for green building. The program is part of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization that promotes cost-efficient and energy-saving building practices for a more sustainable future.
As USGBC puts it, pursuing a LEED rating demonstrates leadership, innovation, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
What Does It Take to Go Platinum?
Homes must earn points to satisfy the LEED Platinum green building requirements. The point system is broken down into the following categories:
- Sustainable sites
- Water efficiency
- Energy & atmosphere
- Materials & resource
- Indoor environment quality
These requirements encourage homeowners to implement sustainable practices, reduce environmental impact, and create efficiency for ongoing building operations.
Why Invest in LEED Platinum?
There are many benefits to building a LEED Platinum rated home. First of all, the remodel process is highly efficient with an emphasis on reusing and recycling material. But most importantly, the final product meets the highest standard of quality. The home will have the most advanced energy practices, indoor air quality, and materials that are both sustainable and durable (and higher resale value doesn’t hurt).
More Than a Remodel: Modernizing a Classic Shingled Victorian
To call this project a whole house remodel is an understatement. It is recognized by LEED as a ground up construction, as we are actually building a brand new house into the shell of an existing structure. (If the structure were not deemed historically important by the city, it would be torn down and rebuilt altogether).
The modernized Victorian home will feature an entirely new foundation, two additional levels of living space, and all new windows and siding. The interior walls have been removed to make way for a new floor plan designed by Feldman Architecture. Not only is this an extra wide lot (45×125 ft instead of typical 25×120 ft) but the LEED Platinum rating makes this an extra challenging project – and we love a good challenge.
Most notably, we developed custom solutions to meet the required diversion rate, foundation standards, and home performance. In this post we’ll talk about the issue that is top of mind during our current phase: construction waste recycling.
3x the National Average for Diversion Rates
Diversion of construction waste is one of the primary concerns in green building, especially because the 25-30% of our nation’s annual solid waste comes from construction and demolition materials. That’s not surprising as the national recycling rate is a meager 20-30%. Luckily when remodeling in San Francisco, the minimum diversion rate is 60% and the average Jeff King & Company project is closer to 70% percent.
The LEED Platinum rating strives even further with a recycling requirement of 90%. This can be achieved through careful tracking of all excavated materials and conscious partnerships for the reuse, repurposing, and recycling of those materials.
How to Increase Diversion Rates
How do you move from a 70% diversion rate to a 90% diversion rate? The key is finding the right partners who a) want the materials you have and b) hold the same level of standard for diversion. We began by dividing materials into categories: brick, wood, wire, metal, glass and hazardous material. The next step involved extensive research and facilitation with six different companies to salvage portions of the house.
For example, a windows & doors shop picked up a load of century-old stable dry 2x heartwood studs and joists to fabricate a line of rustic entry doors. The remaining old growth douglas fir may be reused on site or recycled for furniture. As many bricks as possible will be reused in the landscaping, and old window shutters will be salvaged. Unfortunately lead painted shingles cannot be recycled, though we had no problem finding eager takers for the vintage glass found in the home’s old single pane windows.
While excavating for the new foundation (which we’ll get to in the next post) we ended up with 40 tons of sand. Luckily everyone has use for good clean sand, so whatever does not get reused onsite will be easily recycled.
How Does Increased Diversion Pay Off in the Long Run?
Orchestrating 90% diversion on a jobsite calls for greater management hours, however some of those extra costs can be recouped. For example, the homeowner will receive a government tax credit for all the materials donated to salvage companies. Increased diversion also means less dump loads, which cost about $600 each (with a full truck averaging 20 cubic yards). So far we have saved about eight truckloads to the dump, or $4,800, through higher diversion.
The greatest benefit of shooting for a 90% diversion rate is not in the cost savings but in the long-term benefits to the environment. More recycling means less depletion and extraction from the environment, and less contribution to landfills. We hope to see this sustainable option become standard practice for Bay Area homeowners, and over time we believe it will become the new norm across the country.
Check back for more updates on our first LEED Platinum remodel! In our next post, we’ll talk about the foundation and why this house is “on stilts.”